Details & Cataloguing

20th Century Art / Middle East


Siah Armajani
stained glass, metal and painted wood
overall: 128.5 by 463cm.; 50 5/8 by 182 1/4 in.
Executed in 1979-1983.
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Max Protech, New York
Richard and Patsy Nasher Collection, Dallas (acquired from the above)
Sale: Sotheby's New York, Property from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, 9 May 2008, Lot 84
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

Catalogue Note

With his first comprehensive retrospective debuting this February at the Met Breuer in New York, Iranian artist and activist Siah Armajani, renowned for his outdoor and public installations as well as his commentaries on space and language, graces the Sotheby’s auction room with his seminal Picture Window. The Iranian artist, born in Tehran in 1939, moved to Minnesota in 1960 where he graduated from Malacaster College after majoring in philosophy and mathematics, and pursued both art and activism with renewed vigour. While displaying a particular penchant for public installation, the mediums used by Arjamani are expansive and eclectic in both form and style. Ranging from oils on canvas to remarkable installations such as Bridge Over Tree which has recently been recreated within the Brooklyn Bridge. Now on show, the artist has called this “a poetic documentation about Heidegger’s notion of ‘location’ and ‘neighbourhood’,” (quoted in https://www.theartnewspaper.com/preview/iranian-artist-and-activist-siah-armajani-builds-bridges-in-new-york-as-retrospective-opens), and is based on the original installation which measured ninety-one feet, taking the public through a bridge and over a single evergreen. Poeticising the very function of a public space by rendering its mechanism somewhat obsolete, it is the peculiarity of the installation that led to its famed recreation as it not so subtly draws attention to, and questions, a world increasingly obsessed with walls, boundaries and architectural structures that are capable of encouraging unity or indeed, isolation.

Bold statement pieces such as this characterise Arjamani’s oeuvre, and within Picture Window we see him continue to challenge and unpick the vernaculars of the built environment through straddling the worlds of art and architecture. Typically understood as a “large window positioned so that you can see an attractive view” (from the Cambridge Dictionary https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/picture-window), the very mechanism of the window from which Armajani draws inspiration is imbued with a certain aesthetic expectation. Bright metal blinds are tightly closed behind a glass window. An abstract interpretation of a typical outdoors scene sees a painted block of a periwinkle blue sky adorning the upper section and sap green below, interrupted only by a yellow rhomboid sun that sits haphazardly in the centre. Additional oriels, tall and thin, adjoin the main window, deconstructing the colours and order of the main scene, with geometric pseudo-stained glass crowning each of the six section. Drawing influence from his mathematical training, his Iranian heritage and from Western philosophy, the conceptual art and installations of Armajani have garnered international acclaim.

Appearing at Documenta 5,7 and 8, and the 39th Venice Biennale as well as the British Museum in London, MoMA in New York and and the Musee d’art Moderne et Contemporian in Geneva to name a few, Armajani has built a reputation as one of the most important artists in America as well as Iran. His quick witted and considered works carry with them keen insights into anomalies and ironies of architecture and public structures, created with the precision of a mathematician and the fresh forcefulness of a revolutionary icon who continues to test boundaries and critique the world around him.

“Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.”

Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art 1969

(quoted in http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/69/ReturnToExileSiahArmajani)

20th Century Art / Middle East